Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Darkness

"Hear this you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear." Jeremiah 5:21

Something strange happened last night. A blind lady got kicked out during a performance at the Deaf-Blind Theatre. Sounds unbelievable? I might be exaggerating on the use of the term "kicked out," but...

our night definitely did not turn out as planned.

We set out for the Nalagaat Center for the Deaf Blind with a friend in Israel joining us for the theatrical performance and a unique dining experience afterward. In fact, "set out," adequately describes the evening's journey. Being the only Gentile in the company of three Jews, I should have known we might be "wandering in the wilderness!" We hopped onto public transportation only to discover we were heading in the wrong direction. We got off two stops down the road, caught a bus going the opposite way and were confident we would arrive in time for the 8:30 curtain call.

Alas, it was not to be. After getting off at what our friend vaguely remembered to be the location we walked, and walked, and walked, and walked. Unfortunately, there was no "cloud by night" for us to follow, and after 20 minutes of wrong turns, streets dead-ending into parking lots and a variety of misdirections from police and security guards we wound up exactly WHERE WE STARTED FROM! I couldn't figure out what happened to the "seek and ye shall find."

We hailed a cab and remained hopeful. Alas, it was not to be.

We finally arrived around 9:00 and waited behind someone purchasing tickets. The cashier charged him $10 less than what our reserved ticket price was! Lee gave our names, and explained the reason we were late, she asked for the same discount she had just heard given. The worker was not budging on the price and the haggling grew more intense with Lee even brandishing her cane (I use the term with humor). The woman asked us to pay afterward and go on in as it was an obvious draw between the two.

We took seats at the back and watched the first scene. It was fantastic as all the actors have some degree of deafness and/or visual impairment. There was a screen above the stage with the subtitles for what they were saying in Hebrew and English, as well as an interpreter signing off to the side. Great, profound, provocative, except...

for someone who is visually impaired.

Lee's daughter quietly read the subtitles and described what was happening. That is until...

it irritated the person sitting in front of the blind lady. Seems he wanted to observe the disabled without having to deal with them. Here we were attending a performance intended to sensitize people about the disabled community and this guy thought we were being insensitive!

Yes, I get it. It was a bit like someone talking during a movie but...

what's the point in having a play where people with disabilities express their frustration, when it frustrates and fails to accommodate a visually impaired member of the audience? So she didn't exactly get kicked out but we did make our exit.

"For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them." Matthew 13:15

Our exit into the Tel Aviv night did make me painfully aware of a deeper truth. On the surface I think we really WANT to be sensitive to others. We want to be educated as to the need and the frustration, but on OUR terms, not theirs. Tell me about how you feel, but don't make me feel it too. Our hearts grow calloused and indifferent to suffering in the community around us; not just to those affected by disability, but also the poor, and the impoverished of spirit. I prayed for patience and understanding.

We sat out on the pier and laughed. Lee has a great sense of humor and it wasn't lost when she left the Theatre. She told our friend the time she was asked to leave her service dog behind at a camp for people affected by disability! Stranger things have happened than irritating an Israeli.

The redemption of our night came inside total darkness. The Nalagaat Center operates a restaurant experience called "Black Out" that offers patrons a chance to dine in TOTAL darkness. Before you enter, the hostess asks you to remove all watches the emit light, and to stow cell phones or any other devices that may "light up." She writes down your name and dinner choice before you are led into the dining area by a visually impaired waiter. I admit, the more she explained (feel free to use your hands to eat, wear a bib to protect your clothes, don't panic) the more panic I felt.

"Even the darkness will not be dark to You, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You." Psalm 139:12

The Psalm comforted me, sort of, but so did the waiter (Eli). He greeted us and quickly and effortlessly worked to settle our angst. We stepped into a holding room that had a small blue light on the ceiling. He then instructed us to make a train (hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you) and to move slowly through the heavily curtained off area.

Then it was black.

Ink, jet, pitch, or any other adjective I have previously associated with the color seemed inadequate; void would probably be more accurate. It was a place that lost its perspective and space. It was nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Lots of other people could be heard in the dining room but there was no sense of where they were in relationship to where I was. It was like being swallowed into the dark, it "blinded" you.

Eli had the voice of reassurance; and like we say in Texas, "this was not his first rodeo." He knew what to say to put his new corral of diners at ease. He instructed us each step of the experience, from placing our hands on top of the chairs helping us sit down, to sharing helpful hints like how to fill our water glass by placing a finger inside to judge the water level.

I realized this tip didn't help me while I was pouring the water directly on to my finger! Eli also assured us it was okay to get anxious but slowly we would adjust. He said, "you won't start seeing anything (at ALL) but you will understand that you can enjoy yourselves and eat without "seeing" what you are doing.

He got all of our orders correct (the selections are put on different shaped dishes) and served better than many sighted waiters I've had in the past. We laughed, we compared how it made us "feel," and we appreciated Lee. A woman who was able to laugh off the disappointment of a well planned evening gone awry and make us feel comfortable "seeing" a small part of her world.

Believing and seeing
God's goodness and mercy with fresh sight

Sunday, May 27, 2012

White Robes

"When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place..."

In Jerusalem, Shavuot (Pentecost) is a big celebration. We heard from several people it was also the experience of a lifetime. The Festival was being celebrated in the first century too. It was part of the culture of the Jewish people religious and non-religious. It was and is time of worship and praise.
The account of what happened the first Shavuot after the resurrection of the Messiah is in the book of Acts. Almost two thousand years later the same truths are repeated: "Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation." Acts 2:5

All the God-fearers (us included) started out for the "Kotel" well before sunrise. At 3:00am, there were not quite as many people on the streets as we expected, but there was a steady stream of people walking, talking and making their way to the Old City. It's a bit of a hike from our hotel, up and down the Jerusalem hills, on the cobbled stones and uneven paths that make up this historic place. The roads "in" have changed significantly down through the ages. Jesus and His disciples weren't cutting through shopping malls on the way. But once inside Jaffa Gate, they were probably seeing at least some of the very same landmarks (David's Citadel) though now they lay in ruins.

We had as much excitement as a person could have at 3AM! We slept a few hours knowing the celebration would last well into the morning. We'd been told the crowd could reach into the tens of thousands of worshipers; reading from the Torah and waiting for the sunrise to repeat the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

At the Temple all those years ago, the Holy Spirit fell like tongues of fire. The foreigners who had come to worship, suddenly could hear the Word spoken in their own language. They were astounded, and as foreigners we were ready to experience His Spirit as well.

When we arrived, the plaza in front of the Wall was just beginning to fill with people. It seemed like there was a lot more talking from the youth than worship from the sages. We found a spot along the back where we could sit and be out of the mainstream of people filing in.

I wondered if it was the same in the days of the disciples. Lots of Torah students running around visiting with their friends; families setting up a place where they could stick together without getting lost in the crowd; and the religious, putting on their prayer shawls and preparing to recite the liturgy. I could easily picture how Jesus was separated from His family during one of the Feasts, there are thousands upon thousands of people. I watched as anxious mothers kept a watchful eye on their little ones. I imagined the infants in strollers would awake well before the "services" were concluded. It was quite the scene.

The closer it came to sunrise, more people arrived to take a place and do their part. We knew we had no chance of being close to the action and were glad to actually be seated on the cold stones of the retaining wall at the back. Many of the celebrants brought camping chairs and snacks for the children. They all had the Word in their hands. They all were reading, reciting, and rocking.

We were watching and waiting.

"There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes." Revelation 7:9

One of the traditions of the Feast is to wear white. As the crowd grew, so did the sea of white garments. Thousands of men walked past in traditional prayer shawls. I envisioned Jesus, making His way through the multitudes, and seeing the woman reach out to touch the hem of His garment.

It was not hard to picture the eyes of the Lord looking down on those gathered to thank Him for the giving of the Torah. The prophet Isaiah (55:11) relates that God is watching over His Word, that it will not return to Him empty; that it will accomplish His desires and achieve His purposes.

We were some distance from the "action" but the action soon found its way to us. A pulpit was brought over, then men gathered around as a Torah scroll was laid upon it. Women brought chairs and the "service" began right before our eyes. We never would have seen this no matter how close we were, because men and women worship separately. We had a front row seat to the real deal. For three solid hours the men read, sang and praised the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

We listened and prayed.

It was a good lesson for me. I got up and walked two miles thinking this would be a most holy time, perhaps THE most holy time. What I experienced was far different than I imagined.

"To make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the One we proclaim." Colossians 1:27-28

Tens of thousands of people praising God at the site where His glory was in residence, can't begin to compare or compete with the intimacy I have knowing my Redeemer lives; and He lives in me. The presence of the Triune God was not some 200 yards away in the distance held in massive cold stones. He was right there, with me intimately.

Wherever I find myself: on the plaza of an ancient site in the Holy City, in a thatch roof church in an Indian village, at a university in China, doing a chicken dance in Mexico, at orphanages in Russia, down a dirt road in Africa, or listening to a soldier's horror story of war, I will proclaim Him.

Our only hope
For His glory!

Charlynn not wailing at the wall

I'm smiling with Him
Still!


Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nooks and Crannies

"On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe." Ezekiel 2:10

I remembered the route well. I shared with my traveling companions the first time I tried to make my way to the "Kotel" (also known as the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall). It was the spring of 1994, and after the tour group arrived at the hotel in Jerusalem I wanted to get to THE wall as soon as possible. The place where the Jews mourn and "wail" over the destruction of the Temple. I had read the background of what is considered to be the most holy site in Jerusalem. It is verifiably the retaining wall built over 3,000 years ago by King Solomon.

I read about the "prayers" stuffed into the crevices of stone and was ready to place my own there as soon as I could. I asked for directions to the Old City and set off with another one of the tour members. We made it to the Old City without any delay, but now where to go? We walked through the labyrinth of the fortified walls, down alleyways and with the approaching darkness soon realized it wasn't as simple as we thought.

We saw the familiar clothing of the religious (long black coat, tall black hat with the signature "curled" sideburns hanging down). He was walking at a fast clip and I turned and said, "Let's follow him, he's religious and probably going to the wall to pray." Trying not to get too close as to appear menacing, we kept pace about 20 yards behind. We weaved in and around the rough hewn stone paths; right then left then right then another right, deeper and deeper into the city of the King. And then...

he turned...

and went up a staircase into his apartment.

NOW WHAT!

We were hopelessly lost in the dark. We had no way of finding our way out. Our map was useless. We not only didn't make it to the Wall, it was now in question whether or not we would make it back to the hotel.

"And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be His servants...these I will bring to My Holy Mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer." Isaiah 56:6-7

We prayed. We didn't need the "wall" to know that was the only thing we could do. We were strangers in a strange land, but we were the foreigners who set out to minister to the Lord, to be His servants. We claimed every promise we could remember in our state of lost-ness. There were no still waters for Him to lead us to but...

There was a wall.

As we wandered the streets trying to get our bearings (which, by the way was hopeless), another came walking by. "Can you help us get to the wall?" "Do you mean the Kotel?" he replied. "YES!" Another series of rights, lefts and rights and rights and rights and the last left took us to our place of prayer!

Even though it was late, even though it was not a Sabbath or Holy Day, there were plenty of people with their faces pressed up against the ancient cold stones, rocking, crying (wailing), pleading for a response from the God who promised His eyes would always be fixed toward this place.

"The Lord said to him: "I have heard the prayer and the plea you have made before Me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and My heart will always be there." 1 Kings 9:3

Eighteen years later, I had an easier time finding the place. Not much has changed. Security is a bit tighter, checking handbags and backpacks, but other than that it remains - just like it has for thousands of years. A wall, testifying to the indestructible and undeniable promise of the Holy One of Israel.

Back on my first visit, I thought about the prayers. I was thinking I would see ancient papryus crumbled and frayed. I was surprised to see just how much paper people could stuff into the spaces between the massive stones! It was far from old. It probably wasn't even more than a few days worth. I talked with the guide about this. He assured me that all the prayers that "fell out" of the cracks each day were collected, prayed over and placed in a more secure location. There were "keepers" of the prayers, righteous workers, whose task was to gather that which had worked its way out.

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through Him the "Amen" is spoken to us by the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 1:20

I'm still overwhelmed by the visual representation of thousands upon thousands of prayers said AND heard. I know the prayers I placed in the nooks and crannies 18 years ago fell out within the week. But each trip, and each time I made my way back with more tiny slips to stuff in the cracks, I knew the God of Israel was present, and listening and answering; just like today, tomorrow, next week, next month...

Next time I'm in Jerusalem!

"Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to Your people, come to my aid when You save them, that I may enjoy the prosperity of Your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of Your nation and join Your inheritance in giving praise." Psalm 106:4-5

Thankful to be remembered
Praising and smiling
In His service, bound forever!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Consequently

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of His household..." Ephesians 2:19

It's good to be "home."

I don't know the origin of the oft quoted "home is where the heart is," but here, in the land of Israel, I say without hesitation, the birthplace of our King is definitely where my heart. The Bible pronounces it as our home for the first thousand years of eternity, so I encourage everyone to make at least one trip one this side of glory. I suppose just so you will have something to compare it with; the before and after.

I have a lot of then and now images and experiences etched in my memory. This trip marks my thirteenth excursion to the Holy Land, but since my last visit eight years ago, much about the landscape has changed. As we made our way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the expansion of "settlements" was astounding. Less than a decade ago, an area that was barren, dry and desolate, now is a bustling apartment filled city with flora and fauna lined boulevards. It was amazing and encouraging to see the growth of the nation inhabiting the land of their birthright.

And before you work yourself up thinking I'm making a political statement - don't bother. To me there is no politics involved when it comes to Israel. The Bible says it plainly and I trust and believe it emphatically. However, there is plenty of evidence not everyone shares this belief.

The other remarkable and most notable difference I saw on our journey were the fences. At first I wasn't sure what I was seeing. On both sides of the highway were 10 to 12' high barbed wire fences. It formed an angry looking corridor for tourists unfamiliar with the perils of having terrorists across the street.

And before you work yourself back up thinking I'm making a sweeping statement about the Arabs who live here - don't bother. It is what it is. Those who wish to "wipe Israel off the face of the map," are living in the very place they seek to destroy. I don't know the origin of the quote, "cutting your nose off to spite your face," but...

I'm just saying.

It is a God-sized problem that awaits God's to return to set things right.

Once we dropped our baggage off at the hotel, we headed up to the Hadassah Hospital for an appointment with an opthomologist researching Macular Degeneration (my friend works for a foundation in the states that helps the visually impaired). It seems Israel has state of the art research and she wanted to inquire about current and future studies. The meeting location also gave us an opportunity see the stained glass windows of Marc Chagall in the hospital synagogue. Dedicated in 1962, the 12 windows depict his interpretation and impressions of the twelve tribes. Several of the windows were damaged during the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. The hospital contacted Chagall with great distress, to which the artist replied, "You take care of the war, I'll take care of the windows."

We're here in the land fighting the good fight of faith, we're throwing open the windows of our hearts and experiencing the blessed breeze of His Spirit.

"For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." Ephesians 2:14

At peace, still smiling
In His service,
Charlynn

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

His Story Lessons

"Then I said, "Here I am I have come - it is written about me in the scroll." Psalm 40:7

MY STORY 

There are many scriptures that teach us "all our days are known" by the Lord before we are even born. He is called "the author and perfecter" of our faith and our lives. But during the mundane passing of days it's hard to imagine that "stuff" is recorded or remarkable. And yet..

"Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His Name." Malachi 3:16

His Word, is our proof. Days are remembered and serve a purpose even if we don't quite see the whole picture of how our personal story is making a difference. There are only a few days before I leave for Israel and in preparation, I decided to go back and look at the journals I had written when I took my first trips there beginning in 1995. 

I have a good memory, but after seventeen years, I knew I could use a refreshment on how visiting the Holy Land impacted my spiritual life, as well as giving birth to Sunshine After Rain Ministries. 

In case you've never heard, I'll share briefly of the humble beginnings:

I responded to a radio ad on a local Christian station for Zola Levitt Ministries (a Messianic Jewish outreach and television show). Even though I didn't need a job, I went to their offices explaining that I was just following the prompting of the Spirit. I thought perhaps this would be the way the Lord would use me; to have me write for their monthly Newsletter or ...

What resulted was not writing for the newsletter, but writing lyrics for the television broadcast, which lead to being commissioned for a book of poetry and prose on a pilgrim's first impression of the Holy Land. I was not an overnight success story, and though I used only one sentence to chronicle the path - it took place over several years. 

THE HISTORY 

That first trip in April of 1995, was an over-the-top experience and "how is this happening to me" moment. When I was invited I immediately thought of King David pouring out the water from Bethlehem as something too great to accept. I went to the scripture regarding it (2 Samuel 23) and prayerfully asked the Lord to show me if I was to refuse the invitation. I read verse 4 (NASB) "A morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain..."

Those lines resonated with my very soul. I went on and read the study notes explaining why David poured out the water and knew it was appropriate and acceptable for me to take the generous offer. I wasn't sure how I would accomplish the "commission" of writing about Israel. I nervously asked Zola what would happen if "nothing came to me," while I was there. He just laughed and said, "Charlynn, the Lord has never let you down. Do you really think you're going to get all the way there and He won't show up?" 

Inspiration came in a fury I have yet to experience again. I wrote on scraps of paper, napkins and whatever else I could find, when the words of the Spirit struck me (why I didn't just carry a pad I'm not sure). Zola published the book (Sunshine After Rain Poetry and Prose: A Pilgrim's first impression of the Holy Land) and presented it to pilgrims traveling on their tour for years. I returned to Israel with Zola's group serving as Praise and Worship leader several times. I continually put myself "out there," doing things (speaking in front of large crowds) knowing and trusting God's plan for my life. After my fourth trip, I felt the "calling" to be in full-time ministry, but had no idea how the Lord would accomplish such an insurmountable task. I was a single parent of three children, I needed an income, I needed help!

Then I lost my job. 

I asked a friend to please pray for the Lord to give me guidance and direction. I asked for clarity on what this "ministry" was to be and I asked her to pray I would find joy. I was a "serious" person and parent. Anyone who is a parent (or single parent) knows it is a series of serious tasks: get up, get the kids up, make breakfast, make lunches, get them off to school, go to work, get off work, pick up from daycare, make dinner, help with homework, get them to bed, collapse, and start all over again. 

Shortly after, I was offered the opportunity to write for the television show which would cover the income portion of my problem, but...

Over Christmas, my friend must have really been storming the Throne Room, because just after the New Year, I had my answer about the ministry, as well as finding my joy. I was to ask my friend how to be a clown! I had never had a conversation about HER ministry, much less picture myself in any way involved with it. And yet, it was liberating all the same. Because I KNEW I would have never had THAT thought. She was thrilled. I went to Clown School and began doing performances with the clown troop at our church. I even decided I would take my clown outfit on the next tour to Israel - just in case!

I wrote (NOT emailed) a former member of Zola's tour, and asked if I could visit the Christian school she was teaching at in Jerusalem. She responded (NOT by text) they were delighted to have a special guest come for the children. After the performance I knew THIS was the ministry, the "Sunshine After Rain" I had read about (and wrote about), and surely "He would indeed make it grow." (2 Samuel 23:5)

HIS STORY

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone." 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Each one of us serves as the "letter" of our King to His people. We communicate the joy, the faithfulness, the mercy, grace and love He has poured into our lives. That story is often times messy, frequently boring (thank you for making it this far) but always a part of the bigger singing of the salvation song. 

In 2012, we have to think about what will happen to our "virtual" self when we die. The government has suggested we appoint an executor to determine what to do with our Facebook page, blogs, photos we have uploaded and all the other aspects of social media we are involved in! It's funny so many people consider THAT (what will happen to my internet self), without considering where their eternal self (soul) will be while someone is shutting down their MySpace. What we say and do really does and can live on and on and on...

My story, history, His Story 

Fifteen years of full-time ministry has taught me so much. Returning to Israel after an eight year absence has me excited to learn even greater things for the ministry. The mother and daughter team I will be connecting with are long-time friends from Joni and Friends Family Retreats. We are connecting with the Hadassah Hospital, several Deaf-Blind organizations, orphanages and Messianic ministry outreaches in the Land. We will also be celebrating Shavuot (Pentecost) in Jerusalem! Christians remember this as the time when the Holy Spirit fell among the crowds as "tongues of fire" and 3000 people were added to the "Church." (Acts 2)

There is the short (or not so short) story of my past, my present, and my future. My times are in His hands, "my heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the King: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer." Psalm 45:1

Pray for our time in the Land
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

Pen in hand, smiling still

To participate financially visit our website: www.sunshineafterrain.org 


THE VIEW

I have stood upon the mountain
Took a good long look around
Drank the view until I had my fill
Felt the Spirit falling down

Walked among the thorns and branches
Fallen leaves from ancient trees
Heard the whisper of Your majesty
Brush my face within the breeze

Speak to me Lord
I’m listening
Flood with joy, and fill my soul
Let me linger in Your presence

Renew my heart, 
and make me whole.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Come as a Child


"They started arguing over which of them would be most famous. When Jesus realized how much this mattered to them, He brought a child..." Luke 9:46-47 The Message

No matter how many pictures I post on Facebook or how many stories of fascination at the soldiers' responses to the crazy creations from Hat-a-palooza, it remains just one of those miracles, until you've seen it, you can't really "get" it.

Even the Director, Administrator and Teen Leader who are some of my biggest fans, didn't really know the "deal" (or my exuberance) about the tinseled up trophies. However, they love me for my enthusiasm and have learned to just go with the flow and accept my whack-EE-ness. During the multiple nights of Trophee-pa-looza, my team would shake their heads and grin when at any given moment as the glue guns were blazing, I would just stop and say, "Jesus - WHAT are You going to do with this one?!"

"Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this?" Isaiah 53:1 The Message

When we first arrived and unloaded our end-all-to-be-all Grand Poopaw trophy we endured the giggles, the questions of "What IS that?" and the out and out laughter. I've developed a tough skin and about my zany creative expressions and let it roll over and off like water on a ducks back or rain on a crazy hat! I even brought a lazy susan so it could be admired from every angle. Of course such a grand creation needed an equally impressive place to receive entries!

What better repurpose for an army ammunition box covered with kitchee costume jewelry, to serve as a place where soldiers could heal rather than harm! Each day the box got fuller and fuller with little slips of paper. One soldier took a sheet of cardboard and wrote his name on it and attached it to the top of the Grand Poopaw. This prompted another soldier to quickly remove it, scratch the name off, attach a string to wear around his neck and write "Vote for Me!" on the other side!

Honestly, we thought most of the entries would be comical, or between the two who seemed to be having the most fun "campaigning" for it. We were wrong. 

After one of the tensest evenings (see Mile 22), and emotionally draining days I've ever experienced in 15 years of ministry (hence the PTSD lashing my dear friends suffered) I retired back to my room with my assistant and opened our aptly named "Be-Jammo Box."

It was overflowing with entries, one which was handed to me at the last minute by my soldier friend who said, "These are all the things I've never had the courage or means to say to my spouse and care-giver. Even if they don't win will you see they get these 8 pages, I don't have the strength to say them out loud."

We sat and read for two hours, page after page after page of heartfelt entries. Some of course were quite humorous. Some had obviously stuffed the ballot box (it was allowed). Some had changed up their handwriting on different sheets in an effort to appear more popular. We laughed, but mostly we cried. It was probably a cumulative combination of the whole week, but it was also knowing some silly gargantuan gaudy expression of love had given these Wounded Warriors and their loved ones a place to express how much they valued and cherished each other. 

"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one..." Luke 15:7

And then we came to the winning vote. The writing was obviously a child's, printed and with large spacing between the lines. "I think my Daddy M deserves poopaw because he saved my life..."

The verse in Luke is often quoted because Jesus used it to illustrate how the Shepherd gladly leaves the "ninety and nine" to find the one sheep that is lost. But I used it because it caused me to reflect on the Truth of the Gospel. 

Many people will answer why they think they should be in heaven with a litany of responses, first being "I am a good person." But Jesus clearly stated "No one comes to the Father, except through Me." (John 14:16) 

There were a lot of great and worthy reasons "why" held in that bejeweled box, but in the end, it was the man who received only one vote, the entry of his adopted grandson that won. This Wounded Warrior not only sacrificed for our country, he saved the life of one. 

That's a winner, and that sounds a lot like Jesus!

Thankful, smiling and congratulating the winner